When a friend sent me a short Bible study by email, one verse in particular stood out to me: “A wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.”1 That was an interesting thought: open doors and adversaries are biblically and sometimes necessarily connected.
Later I found myself meditating on a passage from Revelation 3: “He who overcomes”—we can’t do that without something to overcome—“I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God.”2 Toward the end of the chapter is another promise that is one of my personal favorites: “To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.”3
Those verses make a beautiful point. First comes an open door—one that has been opened specifically for the person meant to walk through it—and next come adversaries and tests, which we know from the context of the passage can be overcome. Third comes the knowledge that Jesus had to go through His own very particular open door, facing a degree of adversity that I can’t fully imagine, much less imagine withstanding, but He did. He overcame!
That encourages me that whatever open doors lie before me, and whatever the accompanying “adversary,” I, too, can overcome. In fact, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”4 And because I can overcome, I can one day sit on God’s throne with Him. I’ve never been big on pauper-to-princess tales, but that sounds pretty attractive!
Speaking of fanciful tales, I’m reminded of a stock element of adventure stories—what I call the “treasure behind the troll” scenario. When does the hero or heroine ever get to achieve his or her goal without first fighting off some villain or monster?
That was certainly the apostle Paul’s experience. First came the open doors. “I went to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ and found that the Lord had opened a door for me,”5 he explains at one point. “Pray for us … that God may open a door for our message,” he wrote at another point, “so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains.”6
Paul clearly understood that with open doors came adversaries, but he still wanted to get through those doors and was grateful when they opened. And I can understand why. Success and struggle don’t necessarily come in separate packages. Neither do open doors and adversaries. Or treasures and trolls. More often, it seems, they come in balanced pairs.
The next time I pray for God to open a door of opportunity, I will realize that with it will most likely come some challenges and adversity. Then when those show up, I can recognize them as a sign that I’m really onto something opportunity-wise. I’ll take that treasure of opportunity, even if I have to fight off some trolls to get to it.
It is interesting to notice how some minds seem almost to create themselves, springing up under every disadvantage, and working their solitary but irresistible way through a thousand obstacles. … Little minds are tamed and subdued by misfortune, but great minds rise above them.—Washington Irving
We are made to persist. That’s how we find out who we are.—Tobias Wolff
Happiness is different from pleasure. Happiness has something to do with struggling, enduring, and accomplishing.—George Sheehan
To be successful, you need to understand the vital difference between believing you will succeed, and believing you will succeed easily.
Believing that the road to success will be rocky leads to greater success because it forces you to take action. People who are confident that they will succeed, and equally confident that success won’t come easily, put in more effort, plan how they’ll deal with problems before they arise, and persist longer in the face of difficulty.
Cultivate your realistic optimism by combining a positive attitude with an honest assessment of the challenges that await you. Don’t just visualize success—visualize the steps you will take in order to make success happen.—Heidi Grant Halvorson, “Be an Optimist Without Being a Fool”
The sculpting of our lives sometimes requires trials and tribulations of various kinds so that we can learn to seek God’s help. We learn that sometimes to make it up the mountain we must also pass through valleys. The path to success isn’t always straight upward; it sometimes dips down to the depths and keeps us traveling there for some time. If we find ourselves at a low point in the path, it pays to remember that there’s something there that can make us stronger, better.—Peter Amsterdam